Graduation at any level in academic study ? heck, even kindergarten ? is always an emotional occasion for students and their parents alike.
For sons and daughters, it?s the turning of a page, an exciting new chapter in life. Meanwhile, the parents are left bursting with pride over the accomplishment but feeling remorseful that their child ? their baby ? is growing up.
And there?s handling stuff like invitations, caps and gowns, studio photographs, dinners and parties. Yes, graduation is a hectic time to be a parent. Now take all that and multiply it by three. In other words, meet Michael and Alice Freyaldenhoven, whose kids Mindy, Mike and Allison all recently graduated within 10 days of each other in
?My husband and I do realize that each time one leaves home, it gets harder,? says Alice, who has served Parts Plus Headquarters as accountant assistant since May 1999. ?We do realize they have to grow up. It?s just that sometimes you wish it didn?t happen so fast.?
Life moved pretty fast for the Freyaldenhoven family during those 10 days in May: Mike, 22, was awarded his B.B.A. from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., on May 3; Mindy, 24, received her M.A. in audiology from the University of
Tennessee-Knoxville on May 8; and Allison, 18, received her high-school diploma from Immaculate Conception in Memphis on May 13.
Fortunately, the ceremonies didn?t overlap, meaning both parents were able to attend all ceremonies, and the Freyaldenhoven siblings were also able to see one another graduate.
?It was a wonderfully crazy time,? says Michael, who has been married to Alice for more than 26 years. ?We pulled it off pretty easily, though. After all, we?d had years of practice juggling the kids? different ballgame schedules.?
Michael and Alice honored their kids separately by celebrating with each one at three different events as opposed to having one gathering. First, the proud parents had lunch with Mike, his girlfriend and her parents. The following week, they traveled to Knoxville to attend a party for parents and students alike, which was held by one of Mindy?s friends. Finally, they opened their home to Allison and her friends for a sleepover.
The individual recognition of each graduate was important to Michael and Alice, since each one made the right decisions along the way and overcame unique circumstances to earn their honors.
?Seeing your kids graduate makes you proud of the job you did as a parent,? Michael admits. ?But really, it?s all about honoring the kids and the good decisions they?ve made over the years. You raise your kids as best you can, and you always want things to be better for them than you had it. So you try to teach them what?s right, but, ultimately, it?s up to them.?
Mindy beat dyslexia the only way she knew how growing up: by working harder, studying harder, than her fellow classmates. She finished her undergraduate studies with a 3.9 grade point average, and completed her master?s degree with a 4.0 GPA. In August, she returned to Knoxville to begin work on a Ph.D. in speech and hearing science, a field designed to help people with hearing disabilities overcome their own adversities.
Mike lost his academic scholarship after his freshman year. In an effort to regain his scholarship at UCA, he returned home, enrolled at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, Ark., and worked two jobs totaling 60 hours a week, including a shift in the Federal Express package hub in the middle of the night. He eventually saved enough money to return to UCA for his junior year.
There, he continued working, in addition to taking a full course load, to pay his senior-year tuition as well. And because he served as a resident advisor in his dorm, his room and board were also covered. Mike?s experience as an RA has paid off-literally. Today, he receives full tuition, including a dorm room, as he works as a resident coordinator and starts working on his master?s in college-student personnel services at UCA.
?We are very proud of the decision he made to continue school after his freshman year and finish his education,? Alice says. ?He recently told Allison, ?Don?t do what I did. Study hard and keep your scholarship.?
That?s advice that Allison will undoubtedly heed as she joins her big brother on the UCA campus this fall.
Michael and Alice could be facing multiple graduations again three years from now, when Mindy earns her Ph.D. and their youngest, Robert, currently a 16-year-old sophomore at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, receives his diploma.
?The craziness has only just begun,? Alice says, ?but we love it.?
Story by Scott Bowden
(Reprinted with permission, “Parts Plus Magazine”, headquarters: Memphis, Tennessee)